Happiness – A State of Mind or Pocketbook?

The weather turned today. Instead of dark, dank days full of clouds and cold winds blowing it actually felt like a summers day for a change. Taking advantage of the sunshine, my daughter and I did garden maintenance.Cutting the grass and trimming the hedges always puts me in a brilliant mood. Well, it does if the weather is nice. I am definitely a “fair weather” gardener. So today was an excellent opportunity to rev up the old energy level and get the garden sorted. Despite my back and legs signing Aye Marie while we were sorting things out, I did not mind the discomfort at all. I can put up with quite a lot of things if the sun is shining.

My daughter and I broke for lunch. We were both happy and relaxed. I then remembered the state of my finances and immediately started losing that feeling of well being. I said as much to my daughter. She just looked at me for a minute. “You know that this is a temporary situation,” she said. I replied that hopefully that was the case.  I then took a minute to moan about the time off I’ve had from work. I felt that this did not help our situation very much either. “It feels like it is taking forever to get the problem sorted,” I said. Again my daughter, the voice of reason, told me, “You know that it will get sorted, just keep exercising and walking, it will get sorted when it gets sorted.” I  allowed that she was again correct in her view. I then sat and listened to the quiet of the neighbourhood and relaxed.

I have been fighting the battle for happiness for about two years now. When I realised  that I could no longer live my life as I had been for over twenty-five years and struck out on my own, I felt nothing short of euphoric. Well it was euphoria tinged with a bit of panic. When I left, I took all the big bills with me along with the credit cards themselves. I knew I would need them to set up my new life.

It was costly.

Everything was expensive, even the cheap things. I will admit that I did go a bit mad with spending, but not by much. I was really banking on getting a bit of overtime to help defray the cost. What I did not count on was getting injured at work.  I am covered for six months at full pay, after that it drops down to half. While thats all well and good, it does not give any scope for overtime.

So the costs keep mounting and I slide further in debt while scrabbling to keep my credt rating up.


But.

I am still happier than I have been for years. I am more settled and feel free. So I guess I would have to say that happiness is a state of mind. Because everytime I start to feel panic set in, I think of all the other things I have going for me. The main one being my freedom.

I also wonder when my daughter grew up and became so wise. I think it must have been when I was so busy worrying about everything. I do have a sneaky feeling, though, that she has been that way for a long time now.

Money

Credit Card
Credit Card (Photo credit: 401K 2012)
Money seems to be a problem for everyone these days. The entire world is gripped by economic woes and it doesn’t seem to be easing up for anyone. There is a global tightening of the belt going on that is causing widespread discontent and most of this “belt-tightening” appears to be of the “knee-jerk” variety.

The cause of these economic woes all depends on who you talk to. Economists and financial “experts” all have differing opinions as to who or what is to blame. There is an awful lot of finger pointing going on, with too many suspects to choose from. I think that even Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot would have difficulty finding the guilty party.

I do know that economists have warned for years that the world has been heading for financial meltdown.  It is abundantly clear that they were right.

I personally feel that everyone is to blame. I can see you shaking your head now. “Oh, no.” You say. “I haven’t contributed one iota to this abysmal mess!” No? I beg to differ. I’ll explain.

When I was growing up, it was very important to “live within your means.” In a nutshell, that means living within your salary. There are and were exceptions to that “rule.” Buying a house, for example, put you firmly in debt. This was acceptable though as it was deemed a necessary part of living.

In those far off days of my youth it was a lot harder to get credit. If you wanted to buy an expensive item you put it on lay-a-way, or as the English call it, the HP. Folks had credit cards back then, but, they were a little bit wiser in how they used them.

Now it is a lot harder to “live within your means.” Mainly because of leisure time. We have more time for leisure activities than ever before in the history of man. Don’t think so? Well we do. We as a people work less hours per week than ever before. We also have more things to do in our off work time. That combined with the new “must-have” gadgets and toys make all this spare time an expensive deal.

We all “need” laptop computers (or home computers), games consoles, flat-screen High Definition (HD) or 3D televisions. DVD players to play these HD or 3D films. Every household has multiple cell or mobile phones with the expense that involves. Folks are relying more on their gaming consoles for exercising and inter-acting socially with their families. We use computers and their bastard cousin the internet to do a lot of things that used to be done the old fashioned way.

Everyone wants to buy new things.  The number of second hand shops has dwindled alarmingly. It is just too easy to get “fast” credit and purchase new things instead of used.  We all seem to have an inbred desire to buy bigger and better things. We’ve stopped just keeping up with the Joneses, we’re all now striving to outdo them.

We are not the only ones guilty of this financial “snow-balling” getting so far into debt that we’ll never climb out. It’s the governments as well. Governments go into enormous mountains of debt for things ranging from bigger and better bomb and space exploration, to funding silly research programs.

I’m not wagging my finger at anyone, mind you. I’m just stating the obvious as I see it. I’m just as guilty as the next person of living beyond my means. It happens sneakily, you know. One day you’re balancing everything nicely – if a bit manically – and the next thing you know, you’re buried in a huge amount of bills.

Because, let’s face it, we all like this new lifestyle we lead. And as parents we want little Billy or Suzy to have the latest gadgets and gizmo’s that are out there. Just as we or our governments do.

Money may not be the root of all evil, but it is definitely a close relation and one that is going to be a problem to everyone for a long time yet. I remember once in school a teacher stated that in the future it would be hard to keep everyone occupied when they weren’t working. His theory was that so many things would be automated that  people would have a lot more spare time.

He just never mentioned how much money we’d be spending on this new-found spare time. He also never mentioned that money would be in such scarce supply.

leisure world luton
leisure world luton (Photo credit: osde8info)

Paying Up

Wipe our Debt
Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

I’m supposed to be paying bills at this particular moment. But as is obvious by this post, I’m not. I will do, I promise. I still have a few days left before they are due. So there’s no real rush.

Instead I am taking a break from the hustle and bustle of settling in. I’ve found homes for just about everything that was laying around on the floor. I’ve separated my post from the landlords post. I’ve pre-cooked tea and washed up the dishes. I’ve done a load of laundry and set it up to dry.  I’ve even made a list (in my head and God know how long that will stay there) of things I need to pick up from the store down the road. I even took Meg (my daughter) the other side of town to meet her mother.  No wonder I need a break, I’ve been busy!

But despite my busy day, the bills I’ve got to pay have never left my thoughts.  I am always afraid I will miss a payment and get a bad credit  rating. I know this comes from my up-bringing. My Dad used to always say, “You can have all the fun you want. But you have to remember that the important thing is paying up. You always have to pay the piper.”

The things my Dad told me are just as true today as they were when I was a youngster.  In this day and age of easy credit and banks gone mad, I think a lot of folks don’t believe that. But it is true, we all have to pay up.

Of course I’m not just talking about money here, I’m talking about life and our actions in it. Call it Karma, or just call it “owing the house,” it all means the same thing.  We build up a debt by our actions and reactions to people, things and events. Stop and think about it. Have you ever refused to give up your seat on the bus for some poor old soul who needed it more? Stolen a parking place from another driver who was clearly waiting for it? I could go on and on about the seemingly trivial things that we do to one another  that helps build up that debt.

Now let me make one thing perfectly clear, I am not talking about religion. I’m talking about evening the scales, balancing how we deal with one another. Because believe it not, ugly actions build up a debt just as much as charging on your credit card. And one way or another we all have to go through the process of paying up that debt. Refusing to do so will result in bankrupting whatever it is inside of us that makes us human.

I  think that if we were afraid of getting a bad rating in life instead of just from the credit companies, everyone would get along a lot better. Remember the piper and what he did when the villagers refused to pay up. I’m going to try to keep paying up my “debts” because I don’t want the “piper” mad at me!

And you shouldn’t want that either.